Is it Worth Getting Solar with a Low Rebate or no Feed-in Tariff Scheme?

Electricity prices are rising alarmingly and Governments around Australia have wound back or abolished generous solar rebate schemes so does that mean you should abolish your plans to get solar power for your home? The short answer is a resounding NO!

I’ve had my solar system now for just over 12 months (12 months and 9 days to be exact) and last night my wife and I gave each other a high five in the kitchen as we read our latest electricity bill, which happened to be about $800 cheaper than our power bill was at around about the same time last year.

This happened to coincide with the previous night’s news announcement that the state price regulator (in Queensland, Australia) gave the go ahead for electricity prices to rise by over $200 in the next year for most family households. Coming off the back of similar increases over the past 5 or 6 years this makes the rising cost of electricity unprecedented compared to any public utility in Queensland’s and probably Australia’s history.

How the authorities can imagine the current annual rises in electricity prices are sustainable beggar’s belief! Government after government, election promise after election promise to stop the madness in electricity price rises has amounted to diddle squat.

I hate to be a pessimist but I can’t see anything changing with respect to power price increases and it’s the main reason I got my solar system in the first place. Yes, I was lucky in the sense that our system was installed under the old rebate scheme giving us a combined 50 cent feed-in tariff for any solar power fed back into the grid; but hypothetically, would I still get solar now if I could only receive the current 8 cent rebate?

The answer is, YES and here’s why… Solar PV systems have come down in price dramatically over the past half-decade and even in the past 12 months since I purchased my system. I’ve seen 5 kW solar systems advertised for around $6000 fully installed, and will they drop further more in price? Yeah, probably, but I doubt there will be the big drops like we’ve seen.

Therefore, procrastinating and waiting for solar systems to decrease or for the technology to improve is really just another year paying big money to fat electricity providers when you could have helped a solar installation company keep its head above water.  Not to mention the money you’d save on your bills, which is significant when you have an appropriate sized system tailored for your usage.

No feed-in no problem…

So you don’t get the large feed-in rebate? So what… This just means you should use the power your solar system generates as much as possible throughout the day rather than letting it flow into the grid by:

  • Running major appliances through the day like dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines.
  • In summer, run your air conditioner throughout the day and cool the house down so you don’t need it at night (just run a fan if you need). If you work or are away through the day, set your air-con with a timer to come on in the afternoon before you get home (have it turn off before it starts drawing power from the grid).
  • Set your pool filter etc to run through the day only.
  • Recharge smaller appliances through the day like vacuum cleaners… and so on.  

There’s probably a range of other ways to utilise your solar generated electricity in order to maximise the benefits but just employing the above should get the big expenses out of the way during the most productive time so drawing power from the grid at night is minimised.  

You could install an autonomous system with a battery bank so at night your home runs off batteries but not all residents can qualify for this type of system and it’s considerably more expensive at the moment to install. I would sit on the technology for a little longer too because battery storage is beginning to improve rapidly (after years of going nowhere) and I reckon in about 5 years autonomous solar systems will start to become affordable and reliable.

I say get solar sooner than later

Anyway, back to the cost of a solar PV install without a good feed-in tariff versus paying full price for electricity – I can’t make that decision for anyone, but honestly if it were me I would search for a reliable solar installation company, get the best price I could, and get on with installing a solar system sooner rather than later.

At the rate of electricity prices now and at the rate they are expected to keep rising to in the future, it’s pretty obvious a well-priced solar system purchased now will be paid for well and truly within a few years giving you free power for many years after.

So is it still worth getting solar for your home even though the feed-in tariff has dropped and rebate schemes diminished? Yes it is.

We’ve been discussing this subject on our forum at Self Sufficient Culture, feel free to join up and join in our conversation.

Mark Valencia – Editor SSM

Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…

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